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Students help construct ecosystem-saving fence

Greg Beldham and Mandy Green walk their pet, Sam, to Vespa Point at Moorecroft Regional Park. - NEIL HORNER PHOTO
Greg Beldham and Mandy Green walk their pet, Sam, to Vespa Point at Moorecroft Regional Park.
— image credit: NEIL HORNER PHOTO

The transformation of the former Moorecroft Camp into Moorecroft Regional Park is continuing, with the latest feature being a split-rail fence to keep people on the trail as it meanders through an area of sensitive Garry Oak.

The fence at Vespa Point was constructed by the Regional District of Nanaimo, with significant assistance from carpentry students at Ballenas Secondary School.

As the students needed to measure angles and lines for this work, they also received math credits for the project.

Byron Ayres, who teaches woodwork and construction at Ballenas, said the project included the 23 students in his Construction 11 class. They began the work under RDN supervision in early December, two half days a week.

"It was great, a really good time," he said. "The kids did a great job. We built the whole thing, all done by hand — digging the rocks and everything."

Buoyed by the success of this program, Ayres said he hopes to partner with the City of Parksville next year to build picnic benches and planter boxes for a local park.

Wendy Marshall, the manager of parks for the RDN, said the need was identified as part of the management planning process.

"It is getting more and more popular and we are getting more and more use," Marshall said. "It was identified as a special area of interest because of the Garry Oak ecosystem . . . and there were a lot of young oaks along the side of the trails that we've closed off."

She said the picnic area and viewpoint are also within the Garry Oak ecosystem, but staff opted to continue allowing access because it is a special, scenic point.

"Rather than closing off the whole area, we felt if we kept people to the trails we could preserve this lookout," she said.

The public response to the new fence has been mixed.

"We did receive one letter about it," Marshall said. "Staff that were down there received comments. We are going to put signage up there to say it's a Garry Oak ecosystem and explain why it has to be preserved."

One person who is not happy about the new fence is Peter Hills, who has been walking in the park for years.

"It has ruined the whole look of the park," he said. "I have no problem with the park being protected. The manner of protecting it is the problem."

Hills said the structure is ugly and intrusive and he likened the now fenced-in path to a cattle pen.

"They could have engaged the people and designed a more interesting and acceptable type of fence, with notifications on it about what they were doing and protecting to allow everyone to get involved in keeping the ecosystem correct and nice," he said.

"Instead they put in a big fence."

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